Many great songs have been written about the city of Memphis. This list however deals with only one of them: John Hiatt’s “Memphis in the Meantime.”
Hiatt is an American songwriting treasure, releasing 21 fine long players over a brilliant career dating back to 1974. His ode to the home of Elvis, Sun Studios and Stax Records comes from his 1987 career-defining Bring the Family. Hiatt recorded this LP in 1992 with the core band of Ry Cooder, Jim Keltner and Nick Lowe, a combo that would reunite in 1992 to record and tour as Little Village.
“Memphis in the Meantime” laments the woes of the song’s narrator wanting to take a break with his baby from the slick country music and safe confines of Nashville. He suggests an escape to the rough and gritty Bluff City. Hiatt yearns to trade mandolins for telecasters, steel guitars for saxophones and cowboy boots for fine Italian shoes.
In the song, Hiatt offers these tongue-in-cheek lines about how its message might not go over so well in Music City:
Until hell freezes over, maybe you can wait that long
But I don’t think Ronnie Milsap’s gonna ever record this song
In concert over the years, Hiatt has taken the liberty of changing the Ronnie Milsap reference to some of Nashville’s other current country artists who create “mailbox money” for the town’s many songwriters. Here is a list of some of the ones I have heard over the years. Am I missing any?
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